Malankara World

 

     A Wonderful Night: An Interpretation of Christmas

By James H. Snowden


IV. An Historical Event

The story starts with the place and time of the Saviour’s birth. Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king. There are many myths and legends floating through the world that are often beautiful and useful, but they hang like gorgeous clouds in the air and are ever changing their shape and place. They are growths of the imagination and lack historic roots and reality. They are chary of names and dates and hide their origin in far-away mists. However powerfully and pathetically they may reflect the needs and hopes of the human heart, they are unsubstantial as dreams and afford no foundation on which to build our faith. Heathen religions are generally woven of this legendary stuff. The Greek and Roman divinities were all mythical. But the scientific spirit has swept these imaginary deities out of our sky and rendered belief in them impossible. Our religion must be rooted in reality and cannot live in clouds, however beautifully they may be colored. We refuse hospitality to anything but fact. Give us names and dates, is our demand.

The Bible responds to this requirement. Christianity is an historical religion. The gospel narrative begins with no such indefinite statement as “Once upon a time,” but it starts in Bethlehem of Judea. The town is there and we can stand on the very spot where Jesus was born. The narrative places the time of his birth, in the days of Herod the king. History knows Herod; there is nothing mythical about this monster of iniquity. These statements are facts that no keenest critic or scholarly unbeliever can plausibly dispute. So the gospel sets its record in the rigid frame of history; it roots its origin down in the rocky ledge of Judea. Christ was not born in a dream, but in Bethlehem. We are not, then, building our faith on a myth, but on immovable matters of fact. This thing was not done in a corner, but in the broad day, and it is not afraid of the geographer’s map and the historian’s pen. The Christmas story is not another beautiful legend in the world’s gallery of myths, but is sober and solid reality; its story is history. Our religion is truth, and we will worship at no other altar.

 

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